Chelsea's Carlo Ancelotti learned a truth about his natural predators – they work best on their own
Carlo Ancelotti has solved his striker problem. When Fernando Torres emerged after 76 minutes on Saturday, the Italian substituted Didier Drogba. It is clearly a case of the two together being less effective in Chelsea's favoured system. Both of the forwards need providers either side to flourish. Take away one of those providers to accommodate a front two and the effect is nullified. Ancelotti knew that Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun could all create; now he knows that both Drogba and Torres can score.
Drogba was at the heart of Chelsea's attacking play against West Ham United, with Malouda supporting to his left and Kalou to his right. Each of those two can drift past opponents with the ball take a man out of the game and open up space for the Ivorian. In an ideal scenario, Frank Lampard, the main Chelsea breaking player, would prefer Malouda to hold a wider starting position so he has a clearer channel into which to surge. But theirs is a system the players understand and in which they are comfortable.
Initially, Drogba had looked in selfish mode, hitting wildly from an impossible angle. His pace also failed him when he was out-run by Manuel da Costa on a one-versus-one. But he was only warming up. His exquisite pass inside Freddie Sears for Ashley Cole to square for a Lampard hammer opened up West Ham and the game, too. Confidence flowed: Drogba chased, headed, passed well and, importantly, his play when facing up with his back to goal is superior to that of both Nicolas Anelka and Torres. His physical strength is a positive asset when holding off a defender.
Both Drogba and Torres are natural lone forwards, so it should not come as too much of a surprise that they may not work naturally together. Drogba can play wide or centrally, where he enjoys the physical battle, rolling defenders near the box and overpowering them with his strength. In the diagram Chelsea use his shielding strength against Da Costa to maximise Lampard's run towards the box as Cole charges into space down the flank to become the side's provider. Drogba's brawn is key to the system clicking.
Torres's approach is different. The Spaniard is at his best when racing into the space between centre-halves and full-backs on to balls slipped forward for him to strike early with his right foot. But to create that space in which he revels, team-mates need to drag the opposing full-backs wide. Chelsea's 4-3-3 is a narrower system, without orthodox wingers. They rely primarily on their own full-backs to provide their width and, as a result, there has been less space for Torres to exploit.
That might explain his lengthy adaptation period but, here, his confidence returned as he surged, then swiveled with balance, for his first Chelsea goal. Peter Crouch, Carlos Tevez and Bobby Zamora all waited agonising months to score for new clubs, Liverpool, West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur, but all came good in the end . Torres has gone from lead man at Liverpool to back-up man at Chelsea, waiting for Drogba's eventual departure. Clever management is about anticipating the future. The Spaniard is more than able, and has an eye for the main chance, but he needs a sympathetic handler. He will re-emerge as a lone striker of real quality.